The Port of Seattle, Port of Tacoma, Northwest Seaport Alliance, Washington State Ferries, NOAA, and the Puget Sound Partnership gathered along with experts and shipping stakeholders to address ways to reduce noise pollution in efforts to protect the endangered population of Southern Resident killer whales.
Underwater noise is a serious threat against the marine environment, affecting Southern Resident orcas because it impedes their ability to use sonar to hunt prey and communicate.
The stakeholders conducted a workshop at the Bell Harbor Conference Center on Thursday, October 3, which gathered state, federal, tribal and Canadian government representatives, researchers, natural resource agencies, whale conservation groups and representatives of the maritime industry.
The goal of the workshop was to find ways of implementing a program that reduces the exposure of the orcas to ship noises, similar to the ECHO project that has been established by the Port of Vancouver. The ECHO project initiated in 2017, focusing on whales and marine mammals that are being negatively affected by underwater noise.
Port of Tacoma Commissioner and Managing Member of The Northwest Seaport Alliance John McCarthy commented that although there has been an increase in container cargo volumes in the last decade, today there are less ships calling at the gateway; This happens because vessels today are bigger and can carry more cargo per trip, which reduces ship traffic.
Concluding, the workshop began an outreach to tribes, governments and other stakeholders, and focuses in acoustic monitoring, real-time notification of orca presence to mariners, vessel operations, and technology and innovation. From these discussions, the goal is to have the necessary agreements in place by the middle of 2020.